By Brandon Richey
It was fun to be able to talk with the American Muay Thai legend Kevin here in today’s interview. If you haven’t already done so you need to make sure to give this guy a follow and show him some support!
1) Hey Kevin—your story is very inspiring, but for those that aren’t familiar with your background could you tell everyone a little about yourself here.
I got a real late start to Muay Thai, not stepping into a gym until I was almost 23. I spent the majority of my youth partying and wasting away. Never thought about the future, never thought I’d make it to the future to be honest with you, so I didn’t see the point. I was a full blown alcoholic before I even turned 21. I had this dream of being a fighter ever since I was a kid. However, I allowed all of my doubts and fears keep me from ever going after it. Am I too old to start, will I ever be good enough, no one will take me seriously, it’s just a pipe dream, etc.
One of my best friends, Moe, passed away when I was 19 from a heart condition that he had been born with. He had been in and out of hospitals his entire life. After he died I made a promise to myself that I would go after this. He didn’t get a chance to even fail at a dream and here I am too afraid to even try. Unfortunately, his death sent me into an even steeper downward spiral into darkness. I buried that dream and was on a fast track to death, or prison.
One day I woke up and was smacked in the face by an epiphany. I realized that if Moe were still alive he would have beat my head in for wasting more time. I was alive and healthy and the only thing stopping me was fear. I gave up drinking cold turkey right then and there, and got into a gym a few days later. The rest is history.
2) What do you currently do for strength and conditioning? Do you have any preferred routines, or a personal preference?
So much haha. It would be difficult for me to break it all down for you. It varies daily, weekly, monthly. When I’m far enough out I focus more on building solid strength and foundation and then, as the fight gets closer, I switch to more cardio and conditioning.
If I don’t have the time and need to get my conditioning back up to speed as fast as possible, like on short notice fights, sprints are my go to. Which I do anyway. Usually start my sprinting routine about 6-8 weeks out, doing it three times a week and increasing the speed and amount weekly.
3) What inspired you to get into fighting?
I had always loved boxing since childhood, Arturo Gatti was a huge hero of mine, and still is. I loved martial arts as well. Bruce Lee being an enormous inspiration to me, in so many ways. It was something that was always in my heart and mind yet I brushed it off as a ridiculous dream. I convinced myself it wasn’t possible so why bother. Each time I would see a fight or watch a good movie it would trigger this passion and fire in me.
The alcohol and partying helped me suppress and ignore it, I did everything I could to bury it. This whole process taught me one very important life lesson; all of our excuses, no matter how valid they may be, are really only there to make us feel better about not going after something. If you don’t want to do something then that’s fine, but don’t spout off a slew of reasons as to why you can’t.
You can, you just aren’t willing to sacrifice what you need to in order to accomplish it. And that’s ok, you don’t have to. Just stop pretending.
4) So here at SGPT we always talk about mindset and how to maintain focus to overcome difficult times. What do you do to keep your mental focus on point?
It’s an ongoing, daily thing for me, just like anything else. Of course having that main goal of a fight, or whatever it is for the individual, helps to keep my focus but it really comes down to the minute, daily things that ultimately lead you to a point of strength and unwavering drive. Each day we have countless moments to either strengthen or weaken ourselves.
Whether that be physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually. Everything from how we handle losing our keys, to our interactions, to our diets. The more we can take these opportunities and use them correctly the more it will ultimately get us to where we want to go. Always remember why you are doing what you are doing. “What’s your why?”
As Eric Thomas, the great motivational speaker, likes to say. You are going to have good days and bad, that’s just part of the process. Learn to appreciate and grow from it. Everything can be used as a learning tool.
5) What sort of recovery strategies do you use to bounce back from a tough day’s training, or from a tough fight?
Pre and post training stretching, warming up/cooling down is vital and why I feel I’ve lasted as long as I have in this field. The longer I’ve been doing this the more I’ve learned to pay attention and listen to my body. In the beginning, I would just push through regardless. Of course it’s a delicate balance between being smart or just being a baby. Where do you draw the line? Another ongoing, unending learning process.
The more experience you have doing this the more intelligent you can be but in the beginning you really do need to just grind it out and put in the time. Regular body work/massages are a huge help as well. One of the most important factors is keeping myself relatively healthy, close to weight and in shape all year long. I find that too many fighters have their fight and then spin out of control because they can now relax, only to have to completely rebuild and start over going into their next one.
And don’t get me wrong, I used to indulge like it was a contest but I have fortunately learned from my past mistakes. All that time you could have spent improving your skills but instead you are spending it losing all the weight you packed on and getting back in shape. It’s the off times where you can really develop.
Training for a fight is more about getting as sharp and as strong as possible, not as much about learning and developing. That’s what the time in between should be used for.
6) Do you have one or more favorite quotes that you like to pull from for inspiration?
It’s a bit crass but “Don’t act like a bitch.” Which is something I often say when people ask for advice on things. Now Gina brought it to my intention that most might not exactly know what I mean by that, because they don’t know what it means to me. So, I have now tried to spell it out a little better when communicating to people.
To me, that means stop making excuses, stop complaining, stop whining, stop being a victim. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get to work. No one cares about your struggle. Everyone has difficulties, everyone has setbacks, everyone has things stacked against them. Do you think yours make you special and give you an excuse? If you want something then you’re going to have to prove it. Or just do something else. So that one phrase means all of that to me when I say it. And I say it to myself all the time!
7) Do you have a particular food plan, or nutrition plan that you use to optimize your fight performance?
Again, I try to stay in relative shape all the time. Eating as healthy and clean as possible. The more I do that the less I have to “diet”. I almost always cook my own food, rarely going out. I would say I follow close to a Paleo diet but really I just eat according to how I’m feeling and what I think I need. For the most part, I completely stay away from any dairy, any real grains/breads, and stick to meats, veggies and the occasional fruits. Diets, just like anything else, aren’t a one size fits all. You need to find out what works best for you.
That’s everything from how you eat, to how you work out, to how you sleep, and everything else. We are all so unique that what is beneficial for one might be detrimental to another. It’s best to continually be adjusting and aware to find what ultimately works best for you, which will change over time.
8) What would you say is one area of your life you are always working to improve the most?
Myself! We can not hope to improve the external until we first work on the internal. A huge factor is always trying to see things from the outside perspective. Far too often we can’t grasp the whole picture whilst we are in the midst of things. It’s not until looking back when we can truly understand it all. Whether that’s fighting or relationships or just day to day life. Learning to take a pause, breathe, think and then act. Such a tough thing to do though, life is all about balance. You can’t be too reactive but also can’t be too introspective.
“Learn to know yourself…to search realistically and regularly the processes of your own mind and feelings.” —Nelson Mandela
9) What would you say is the strongest area of your Muay Thai? Your hands? Kicks? Clinch?
My heart, will and tenacity more than anything else. It is what has allowed me to overcome insurmountable odds, obstacles and opponents. As far as actual, physical skills goes it has to be my boxing. Having loved it since youth, I put much more focus on it from the beginning. It was not until I traveled to Thailand for the first time where I truly began to develop and appreciate a much more complete arsenal.
10) Are you preparing for a fight now and if so can you share some details of the upcoming event?
No, I decided to take a step back for a minute after my last fight, which is literally the first time I have done that since the day I began sixteen years ago. Pretty crazy to think that I’ve never actually taken a real break in all this time. It was much needed, yet at the same time such a difficult thing for me to do. I was still working out, just not “training.” But, I’m back on the grind now, which has been tough, both physically and mentally, getting back into the swing of things.
Trying not to rush it and be smart, for once, so that’s why I haven’t scheduled anything. I’m giving myself the rest of this month to get a more solid base and then from there I’ll start looking to see what’s next.
11) Do you have sponsors, or a favorite gear list that you use?
Triumph United has been with me from the beginning. They have some amazing, authentic gear and products. A huge shot out and thank you to Hans Molenkamp who has believed in me since day one. Muay Thai addict, who has been the long time manufacturer of my signature shorts, as well.
12) Do you have any products or social media links that you would like to tell our readers about?
Just want to thank the rest of my sponsors Pharmaxtacts, which is an amazing CBD company based out of Las Vegas, and Monster Energy. As far as my personal stuff goes, including my books/shorts/shirts/art/blogs/etc., are all available on my website, The Soul Assassin.
And I would just like to give my utmost love and appreciation to my family, friends and all of my fans that have been there and stuck by me throughout the countless ups and downs of my entire career. I couldn’t have done it without you!
SGPT and Kevin Ross would also like to give a special thanks to Black Eye Athletics for helping to make this interview possible. Please check them out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEALgrinderPT coach Brandon Richey is a certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and founder of Brandon Richey Fitness.
He has worked with thousands of athletes over his 17 years of experience, developing fitness training programs for beginners to professional and D-1 level collegiate athletes at the University of Georgia.
He also trains MMA and Muay Thai athletes, both professional and amateur.